Carolyn Swanhall is Jumpstart’s PR & Events Manager
When the news broke that three of our Jumpstart Corps members from George Washington University had the opportunity to volunteer alongside President Obama and the First Family on the MLK Day of Service, sponsored by the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), our excitement (to say the least!) was through the roof. The collective excitement was felt in shares, re-tweets, texts, phone calls, and notes from staff, community partners, and supporters from across the country. And when The Boston Globe and The New York Times posted the photo you see below, we could not have been more proud to see the Jumpstart and AmeriCorps logos highlighted for the world to see.
To the media, the First Family’s participation in the MLK Day of Service at the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Washington was a dream come true. But for Jumpstart, it was so much more than that. President Obama underscored his commitment to both national service and early education by rolling up his sleeves to cut, glue, and prepare materials for Jumpstart classrooms in the greater Washington, D.C. area. President Obama, CNCS CEO Wendy Spencer, and Jumpstart Corps members assembled books for children to write and illustrate their own stories for Jumpstart’s Writing Center, where children develop the meaning and use of print and can experiment freely with drawing and writing. They also created notecards for a matching game in which children identify the correct uppercase and lowercase letter pairings in an effort to build alphabet knowledge.
Jumpstart Corps member Jonah Lewis, reflects on his special day of service this MLK Jr. Day, one he is sure not to forget. “Serving with the First Family and Wendy Spencer on the MLK Day of Service was an amazing experience and an example of one of the many benefits of serving with AmeriCorps. The First Family was overjoyed to meet and speak with AmeriCorps members and the children of the Boys & Girls Club who were volunteering with us.”
National service is a huge part of Jonah’s life and something he is extremely passionate about. “National service is an integral part of this nation’s success and the well-being of our people. Service is in many ways, to quote Shirley Chisolm, ‘The rent we pay for the privilege of living on this earth.’ We depend on the service and dedication of people from various communities across these United States to work for change and that’s why I am a proud member of Jumpstart and the AmeriCorps network.”
“A brighter future is ours to write. Let’s begin this new chapter — together — and let’s start the work right now.” – President Obama
Another highlight for Jonah was working closely with President Obama’s oldest daughter, Malia Obama. “I was struck by how down to earth Malia Obama was and how willing she was to both jump right into this activity and engage the curiosity of the children she was serving with.” Malia not only dove right into the activities, but chatted with the children and volunteers about her favorite books and what it’s like being the daughter of the President of the United States.
It was an honor to see first-hand President Obama’s dedication to high-quality early education through his participation in the Jumpstart program at the Corporation for National and Community Service’s MLK Day of Service. Millions of adults and children from across the country gather each year on Martin Luther King Jr. Day to transform the ideals of Martin Luther King Jr., Shirley Chisholm, and other great minds into action – citizens taking action and rallying around the causes and issues that are closest to them. For the volunteers and Jumpstart Corps members gathered at the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Washington, their commitment to children’s literacy, education, and early learning experiences were the catalyst for bringing them together this year and are incredibly honored for this opportunity.
As President Obama said in the final moments of his 2015 State of the Union address on Tuesday, “A brighter future is ours to write. Let’s begin this new chapter — together — and let’s start the work right now.”
We have a lot to be proud of, but there is so much more to be done and its days like the MLK Day of Service that inspire us to continue to work toward the day every child in America enters kindergarten prepared to succeed.